It’s safe to say that leadership isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are different ways to lead, and every person has their own outlooks, values, skills, and perceptions. Take a moment to think about the leaders in your life. It’s likely that some great (and not-so-great) examples come to mind.
Whether you’re an aspiring leader or currently leading a team, you may be wondering if you’re even good at it. Let’s explore key characteristics that great leaders have and how you can become an even better one.
What Makes a Good Leader?
Good leaders aren’t defined by their successes or failures but rather, specific qualities and characteristics. Good leaders are humble, empathetic, flexible, honest, and optimistic. They know how to use their interpersonal skills and subject matter expertise to drive their organization forward. This allows them to inspire, encourage, and motivate others to strive for more.
Here are some key characteristics and qualities you should focus on as you pursue your leadership development goals.
1. Build strong communication skills and create an open dialogue
Good communication skills are an essential part of leadership. Without them, how are you going to be able to inspire and motivate others? And how are you going to expect your team to succeed without clear guidance?
Communicating well can be a challenging skill to master. Great communication requires openness, honesty, and transparency. It is also a two-way street. Practice active listening to make sure others know that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying. This creates an environment where people feel comfortable sharing and collaborating.
2. Prioritize feedback
Positive and constructive feedback is necessary. Be sure to recognize your reports and appreciate them for a job well done. This is a great way to keep your team members engaged and motivated, and it also encourages high morale.
In addition, you want to provide constructive feedback in an honest yet respectful manner. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know, and this guidance is critical to helping your reports go in the right direction.
On the other hand, good leaders should want to improve themselves, too. Regularly asking for feedback from your reports, peers, and managers can be one of the best ways to hone your leadership style.
3. Foster Strong Connections
Getting to know your team on a deeper level helps build trust. Get to know each of your team members’ work styles, interests, goals, strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. Making time to connect with your team members can have a significant impact on your organization’s culture and ability to lead effectively.
Whether it’s scheduling a coffee chat, discussing an icebreaker question before jumping into a weekly meeting, or setting time aside for professional goal-setting, taking time to show you care goes a long way when it comes to building rapport.
4. Take risks and embrace failure
Good leaders know that risks are essential to growth. Building a risk-friendly environment can help your team feel comfortable taking on challenges. With risks, there’s always the chance of failure. Good leaders know that this is part of the process and actually see failure as a learning opportunity.
When failures do occur, it’s important to maintain a positive, encouraging attitude. If team members are afraid to fail, it’s less likely they’ll want to try new things. What’s more, fear of failure can actually perpetuate a toxic work culture. Embracing failure and taking time to learn from it can lead to more growth and success for the company.
5. Stay Growth- and Future-Focused
As a leader, you’re driving the growth and success of your company. It’s your job to set goals that inspire your company and the people in it. You should also be invested in your team’s personal and professional growth. Take time to help your team identify and reach their goals and provide guidance. Don’t be afraid to challenge your team and actively look for professional development opportunities through new projects, trainings, events, and mentoring.
In addition, strong leaders know that they themselves don’t know everything, so they’re also constantly working on strengthening their own skills.
How to Tap Into Your Leadership Potential
It can be challenging to master the soft skills and characteristics that make a good leader. They aren’t typically taught in a classroom, and they’re often learned through experiences like extracurricular activities, or from parents or mentors. You can also take courses, listen to podcasts, read leadership books, and more.
One of the most effective ways to become a good leader during your college years is by joining a leadership honor society. Leadership development programs can help you learn valuable soft skills that build leaders at a quicker rate. But you don’t want to be part of just any leadership program; you want to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.
Learn from the Best at the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS)
As the only accredited leadership honor society in the country, the NSLS is designed to help members achieve personal growth and career success by helping them harness their leadership potential. We provide an array of learning opportunities to help you become the best leaders you can be including:
- Speaker Broadcasts, where members can learn from top successful leaders like Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, George W. Bush, Dr. Bernice King, and more.
- Scholarships and awards, which help members overcome financial barriers so they can continue to pursue their dreams.
- Certifications and digital badges to feature on your resume for potential employers.
- Paid internships and access to an exclusive online job and internship portal.
In addition to our typical program structure, we also offer annual in-person and online leadership summits. With three summits per year, these are a great opportunity to learn about key leadership qualities and best practices, gain insights from top leaders, network, and get more information about the NSLS.
Summits are open to the general public, so members and non-members can attend. If you’re ready to learn how you can become a better leader, register for our leadership summits today.